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Five Easy Pieces

December 1, 2010

509. Five Easy Pieces
Directed by Bob Rafelson
USA, 1970
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
Second viewing


Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) was raised in a well-off musical family but now leads a blue-collar life, working in a California oil field and living with his ditzy but devoted girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black). When Bobby learns from his sister Partita (Lois Smith) that their father is seriously ill, he returns grudgingly to the family home in Washington. Rayette travels with him but initially stays in a motel at Bobby’s request. When she eventually comes to the Dupea household, Bobby’s two contrasting worlds clash and it becomes clear that he is comfortable in neither one.

Essential Scene:

Bobby tries to reconcile with his father, who has suffered two strokes and is no longer able to communicate. He takes his father out in his wheelchair, stopping in a quiet area overlooking the sea. Bobby kneels to talk, initially fidgeting awkwardly.

I don’t know if you’d be particularly interested in hearing anything about me. My life, I mean. Most of it doesn’t add up to much… that I could relate as a way of life that you’d approve of. I move around a lot. Not because I’m looking for anything really, but because I’m getting away from things that get bad if I stay. Auspicious beginnings, you know what I mean?

His father looks at him, apparently comprehending, but his face is impossible to read.

I’m trying to imagine your half of this conversation. My feeling is, I don’t know, that if you could talk, we wouldn’t be talking. That’s pretty much the way it got to be before I left.

Are you all right?

I don’t know what to say.

Bobby sobs as he talks.

Tita suggested that we try to, I don’t know… I think she feels that we’ve got some understanding to reach. She totally denies the fact that we were never that comfortable with one another to begin with.

The best that I can do is apologize. We both know that I was never really that good at it anyway. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.


Bobby Dupea is a man destined to search in vain for a place to belong. The five easy pieces of the title — piano works by Mozart, Chopin and Bach — represent his musical upbringing, contrasted by the relatively unsophisticated Tammy Wynette songs Rayette insists on playing in their new home.

He feels suffocated by the merest hint of commitment and is prone to insulting and hurting the people who care for him. Sometimes you can see his point — such as when he castigates a pompous party guest — while other times he comes across as an insufferable arsehole. But I’ll give him one thing; he’s never dull.

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